Wrestlers put to test by Navy SEALS

After more than three weeks of training with the camp staff, the campers go through the same test that is used to admit Navy personnel into SEAL training.

>”Relax and have fun,” were the words of inspiration for 38 youth wrestlers Monday night prior to the beginning of evening practice.

I’ve probably heard that phrase a hundred times in my life, but that night was the first time I laughed when I heard it.

Maybe that’s because of who said it and the conditions under which it was said.

“Who” was an instructor with the Navy SEAL Leap Frogs, brought in to administer the Navy SEAL Trident Challenge to participants at the J Robinson Intensive Wrestling Camp.

After more than three weeks of training with the camp staff, the wrestlers go through the same test that is used to admit Navy personnel into SEAL training.

Competitive scores for a 500-yard swim, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and a 1.5 mile run give participants an 80 percent chance of being admitted into the first level of training.

So “Relax and have fun” sounded a little out of place to me as I observed Group Four of the camp from start to finish.

First up was the swim, and judging by the vibe from the campers, the least favorable event.

“You know what the worst thing about a long swim is? You gotta finish it,” one of the SEAL motivators says. “You know what the best thing is? Finishing it.”

Gee, if this whole warfare thing doesn’t work out, these guys can go into the inspirational speaking business.

While the wrestlers were doing laps in the pool, I chatted with a Montana family who came to see their son’s last week of camp.

I asked the boy’s dad why they came all this way for a youth camp.

His initial reply was simply a look of wonder as if I had asked the dumbest question ever.

Then I realized just how much of a draw Robinson and the Gophers program are to youth wrestlers – two came all the way from Alaska for the 28-day camp.

With most of the campers ranging in age from 14-18, wrestlers only have a few years before potentially making a collegiate roster.

And many want to compete for a program that is a perennial NCAA contender.

So I’m not exactly surprised when the group makes its next stop at the wrestling room in the Bierman Athletic Building – and the upbeat and somewhat cocky attitudes drop slightly amongst the campers.

They know this room is filled with history and tradition and deserves their respect.

In the same room where, among others, Brock Lesnar and Cole Konrad trained to become national champions, Group Four prepared to test their physical strength with push-ups, sit-ups and pull-ups.

By the time they were done with the first four legs of the test, their youthful cockiness was gone and very few, if any, were looking forward to the final event – a 1.5 mile run outside on the track.

If a camper finishes all five tasks to meet the SEAL completion standard, they earn a coveted “Blue Shirt.”

To hear these kids talk about the shirts, you’d think they were talking about earning gold medals at the Olympics.

Then I find out why everyone wants one so bad.

When asked how many campers have actually passed the SEAL standards this year, one staff member said, “I think one kid did it.”

Robinson, who uses the exercise to stress the importance of community service and physical fitness, might want to watch out, or next year he’ll be honored as the Navy’s best recruiter instead of the best in college wrestling.